Sunday, October 28, 2012

Autonomous Intelligent Fighter Drone Concepts

We are entering the era of 5th Generation aircraft which begs the question of what is next, and what is after that? Airforce states that a potential generation 6 aircraft will have: "extreme stealth; efficient in all flight regimes (subsonic to multi-Mach); possible “morphing” capability; smart skins; highly networked; extremely sensitive sensors; optionally manned; directed energy weapons." Anyone who had trawled the internet and kept up with the latest technological advances will have come across such things as cloaking devices made of metamaterials to route microwaves (radar) around the object, advanced tactical lasers, focused pulses of weaponized microwave energy, conformal transmission and reception arrays embedded on the skin of the aircraft, and "memory" metals or composites than can flex on command. Then there are also cybernetic weapons, malware that can enter an enemy craft through its receiving antennas and shut down critical systems, create phantom radar returns, or hide true radar returns.While all this is exceptionally cool, I wanted to go even further to the Seventh Generation.

My ideas incorporate all of these ideas and a little more. There is this idea that computers will continue to advance, helping us solve more problems and aiding in design of new technologies and machines. It is believed that this development is asymptotic and computers will quickly reach the level of human of intelligence. Soon after they will create computer systems that are smarter than humans. This is called the Singularity event, from which time anything that happens afterward will be hard to predict as it is unknown how the world and humanity will be changed. It could be our bane or boon. My thoughts on computer/machine intelligence have been formed by the ideas of cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, author of Escher, Godel, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, and I Am a Strange Loop, whose writing and ideas I have interpreted to mean that "artificial" intelligence will be no different than natural intelligence. I place artificial in quotes because it is my belief that intelligence, or the sense of I, and emotions are a result that emerges from complex information processing systems, whether those systems are made of brains or computers. In such, we can't create computer intelligence, we can only create the systems from which they can arise. Or perhaps it is closer to the truth that we won't even do that, that advanced computers will.

My Seventh Generation fighter aircraft incorporate advanced versions of the Gen 6 attributes post-Singularity (which I don't envision as being a destructive, genocidal "Rise of the Machines" that is central to many science-fiction plots) with no human pilots or remote operators. The "artificial" intelligent persons inhabit a module that can be physically loaded into a number of receptive bodies and vehicles, with the idea of copying or down-/uploading being an anathema to the concept of Identity and Individuality. (This runs counter to the philosophical reasoning that since an exact copy is indistinguishable from the original the two can be said to be the same. My question is does entropy allow exact copies to be made? And if you transmit yourself to another body or system, which is an act of copying, and the original is deleted, is the transmitted identity a new being while the original is dead? Or if there is no deletion of the original, how do the two identical identities correlate? Can such be deemed a "budding", asexual reproduction of a full adult conscious intelligence?) There are also no kinetic weapons loaded; all weapons are directed energy and mal-/killware. As I draw no distinction between machine and human intelligence (nor have a need for literary plot devices such as The Three Laws of Robotics--as the machines are people, not tools) I view machine intelligence as having the same sense of self-preservation, that while such can be programmed at the operating level like genetic motivated instincts, it can also arise by a conscious desire to remain extant, and even super-intelligent machines will engage in warfare to secure natural resources such as energy sources and rare earth metals for their continued existence. But I don't think their warfare will not be like ours. The means to copy oneself makes attrition difficult, so cyber attacks that alter or damage the concept of identity, or proselytization maybe the primary means of containing a population dependent on finite and scarce resources.

The following designs are around the 2030 timeframe, after a nuclear world war that seems highly likely given current global events, growing nationalism, rising food and energy prices, and polarizing attitudes. As such wars change the world, the surviving nations are not the same as they are today, and given the unpredictability beyond the Singularity, this speculative fiction is a free-for-all for what might come.

The first idea I had was the FQi-2A, or Fighter Drone (intelligent), model 2A.

I have many preliminary sketches, most having a single bottom intake that I rejected due to landing gear issues. I do plan to generate better art for this idea. Here is the thus far composed datasheet:

FQi-2A Accipiter
                Intelligent Autonomous Fighter

Brief: Post-Singularity fighter aircraft in allegiance with the United Republics of America.
Service Date: August 15th, 2032
Generation: 7
Advanced Tactical Laser, 50 to 300 kW range
Write On-Demand Killware
Conformal Array Skin for broad range multi-use EM spectrum transmission and
Extended Spectrum Microwave Cloaking
Adaptive Camouflage 
Adaptive Compliant Structure for variable incidence, dihedral, flight control deformations.

I'm also building a wireframe in Rhino 3d modeling software for more accurate illustrations that represents the current state of the concept.

 It measures 45 feet in length, with a 27+ feet wingspan, and a planform optimal for Mach 2.8. Chines provide nose pitch stability, with a leading edge vane serving as a vortex generator to retard boundary air separation on the wing, enabling higher angles of attack and hence greater agility. The wings, and the vanes can change dihedral to meet flight efficiency. The leading and trailing edges of the wings can deform for flight control changes replacing ailerons, flaps, rudders, and elevators. A diverterless split intake hides the engine face from radar and generates the necessary oblique shock waves to control the pressure of the air feeding the engine.

Areas of the skin can render transparent for the firing of lasers or optic sensors. Much of the skin acts as an antenna for communication, radar, and microwave weapon pulses/beams, as well as having microwave cloaking elements for stealth, which removes the Gen. 5 requirement of radar deflective angled surfaces, and color changing elements for active camouflage. Tail numbers and other marking can be materialized when needed.

What I wanted visual-wise was a smooth bird-marine aesthetic which might arise from laminar flow calculation. Micro- or nanotechnology hides the "zippered" edges of all the maintenance and service panels. The surface will have a very high fineness ration for lower drag.

The Accipiter's main challenger is the Chinese Longchi, or Dragonfang (literally dragon tooth from the Google translator.) It has much of the same technology with a different intake arrangement and wing planform, with it's primary weapon being cyber-attack. It is designed to be faster for attack runs into northern Alberta (rare earth metal mining sites) from the Bering Strait or Alaskan bases.

The most recent is something I haven't named yet.

I wanted to take a step beyond the conventional aircraft look, and as noted, its features have functions. This developed from thumbnail doodles where I explored the idea of extending the leading edge extentions/chines ahead of the body. It recalled research into sonic boom suppression whereby three shock waves are introduced ahead of the main aircraft to soften and quiet the boom as air densities normalize. The edges also merged well into the intake designs of Boeing's experimental UCAVs and famous proof of concept, the Bird of Prey. These spires would also generate and control supersonic shock waves--though to a lesser degree--at the mouth of the intake, with the diverterless hump of the nose further diffusing airflow to the engine. Mach cones generated at the tips of the spires allow more of the wingspan to be within the resultant Mach angle. And the spires also generate vortexes for boundary air control over the wing.

This fighter generation is classed 7++ and more likely has no human handlers or involvement in its operation. I decided the marking should reflect this, so instead of typical lettering it has something much akin to popular code scanning app blocks as seen on products and in magazines. It's designation is something only a computer would comprehend; I was thinking of some random hexadecimal word or string that would be meaningless to us humans.

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